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Devastated growers plead for government support
Record-setting rainfall has caused crop devastation across the Lower Mainland and left several growers facing ruinous losses. Some now say a life preserver from the government could be their only chance of surviving for another season.
Persistent puddles of water and mud have been ruining crops and preventing farmers from harvesting since the end of August. Potato, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot and beat growers are predicting up to 80 per cent of their crops will be unsellable.
"We never really got a chance to get out of the starting gates," said Bill Zymans, owner and operator of W&A Farms in Richmond.
Tomatoe farmer Allan Hughes says his summer crop was already cut in half by bad weather in May and June. "Now the last part of the year will probably be another disaster," he said. "We need the sunshine."
Zymans said B.C.'s vegetable industry is already on track to lose more than $38-million, and it could get worse. It's a harrowing situation, Zyman said, as many in the industry look forward to September as their "golden month."
"It's when you can pay all your bills that you've racked up over the growing season," he said.
The last time rain wreaked havoc at Zymans' farm was 13 years ago, when about 20 per cent of his vegetables were ruined. Those losses hardly compare to the devastation expected today; Zymans expects to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But few farmers are looking to leave the industry. "It's in our blood and we have to come back," Zymans said. "I mean, it's all we've got. We've got all our investment, everything is tied up in agriculture."
Crop insurance will help, but Zymans said the situation is still dire, especially for new farmers and those who grow only one commodity. Farmers are now explaining their predicament to the government and asking for assistance that could help them stay in business another year.
"We are in a real mess right now. Agriculture is in trouble," he said. "Hopefully the government will understand … agriculture is very important to this province and they will come forward and help us."